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About the Park

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...the appreciation of wildlife and wild places, understanding our place in the circle of life, realizing that the natural environment has value to our everyday lives.
Dr. Beth Stevens, as Conservation and Science Director for Disney's Animal Kingdom®

That, even more so than the official dedication of the park (see bottom of page), is to us what the Animal Kingdom is all about. When Disney announced this new theme park, many people scoffed. "Disney? Building a zoo?" And so the slogan "NAHTAHZU" was born.

It's true: the Animal Kingdom is most definitely not a zoo. Yes, it has zoo elements within it, but they are presented in a way that only the most modern and well-funded zoos can match. And most of the animal habitats have that special Disney touch; they've been "plussed" as the Imagineers say. Other theme parks may have rides and a safari train, but only the Animal Kingdom made a ride out of their safari train.

This overview of the park assumes you already know how to get to Walt Disney World®.

Getting to the Park

From off-site, take exit 65 (Osceola Parkway) or 62 (World Drive) from Interstate 4. From 429 take Western Way. However you end up on Disney property, follow the signs to the Animal Kingdom. Be careful not to follow the Animal Kingdom Lodge signs - if you do, you'll have to turn around.

The Animal Kingdom has perhaps the most frustrating parking lot in the resort: you exit Osceola Parkway on the right, take a 180 degree turn, then go nearly three-quarters of the way around the parking lot before you are directed to your space. You still have to walk past bus/RV parking, cast member parking, and the bus stop before you get to the entrance gate, so we recommend the tram unless the queue is so long that you expect to have to wait for a second one. If you are staying on Disney property, the bus system is an option. It will save you a walk from your car, although as with most parks at WDW, it will almost certainly take an additional 10-20 minutes when you factor in waiting at your resort for the next Animal Kingdom bus.

From the tram or bus stop, you still have a bit of a walk to bag check and the ticket booths beyond, but no worse than at Epcot.

Lay of the Kingdom

Like most Disney parks, the Animal Kingdom makes use of the hub-and-spoke design with a corridor leading into the center of the park from the entrance. In all, Animal Kingdom has seven themed lands plus the entrance area. Within those lands are twenty attractions, three permanent shows (along with a park opening ceremony and afternoon parade). There are thirteen shops and sixteen restaurants (ranging from high-end sit-down meals to grab-and-go snack carts), plus a character breakfast and a picnic option. Disney characters are spread throughout the park, offering autographs and photo opportunities.

General Touring Tips

You can't go wrong following a few tips that go for just about any Disney park:

  1. Get to the park early, before opening. Repeat: get to the park early. Morning hours are quite simply the best time to experience the best of the Animal Kingdom's offerings with the least waiting time. We know you're on vacation, but by getting to the park early you can actually take a more leisurely approach (at least for Disney) than if you arrive after the crowds have built up.
  2. Plan a route that minimizes backtracking. You have to go through Discovery Island first thing upon arrival, but once you've decided what you will do first, try to finish that land then move either clockwise or counter-clockwise to the next one. Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Dinosaur are all good candidates for your first stop.
  3. Leave walk-through attractions for the later in the day. This can sometimes conflict with the "no backtracking" tip, but since you will be going back through Discovery Island between lands, it can be made to work. Do the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek while you're touring Africa and Asia, respectively, but skip The Boneyard, the Gibbon House (near the bridge between Discovery Island and Asia), and the Tree of Life exhibits until the middle of the day. Tour The Oasis on your way out.
  4. Make use of FASTPASS, especially early in the day. If you have a fast walker in your party, send that person to get FASTPASSes for either Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safaris while the rest of the party walks more leisurely to the other attraction. These two attractions in particular develop very long lines as the day progresses, while the other FASTPASS attractions can usually be experienced by waiting it out.

There are also some tips specific to the Animal Kingdom that are counter to usual Disney planning:

  • Extra Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom seem to have the opposite effect on crowds as they do at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. According to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, morning EMH provides little to no benefit, as the time gained in the extra morning hour is lost later in the day due to larger crowds. Conversely, our experience has been that evening EMH draw large crowds during the day, which thins out shortly after the normal park closing. Why? The Animal Kingdom still does not have enough attractions and shows to fill a full day for most guests, so unless they have been taking it very slowly (as we recommend), they are done by the time the parade is over. This means that, at least during the slower parts of the year, the Animal Kingdom is the one park where it is worthwhile showing up just before evening EMH starts, allowing you to enjoy the park at night in reasonably light crowds.
  • Animal Kingdom's three shows often overlap, but since Finding Nemo - the Musical and Flights of Wonder are reasonably close together,it is possible to catch them in succession while touring Dinoland U.S.A. and Asia, rather than backtracking later in the day to catch one of the few showings remaining.
  • Animal exhibits are best in the morning and evening. You don't like being out in the Florida sun in the afternoon, and neither do they. As a bonus, you can often catch a feeding session on one of the Discovery Island trails close to park closing.
  • While the dining selection at the Animal Kingdom is not great, there is one helpful fact: nearly all of the restaurants are either on Discovery Island or just across the bridge into one of the other lands. So as you are developing your touring plan, you can plan a lunch break in between two lands and not have to go too far out of your way.

Nothing substitutes for a good touring plan if you are looking to minimize your time waiting in line. And in the Animal Kingdom, where there is so much to see in between the attractions, wouldn't you rather be stopping to admire a beautiful bird in the afternoon as opposed to standing in the queue for It's Tough to be a Bug? We recommend a touring plan like those from (website for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) to get the most out of the park.

Check out the maps link above to see the park in detail, or use the navigation buttons on the left to get to descriptions and reviews of the offerings at the Animal Kingdom. And enjoy your stay here at!

"Welcome to a kingdom of animals... real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn."
Michael Eisner, dedication of Disney's Animal Kingdom®
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